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Subject: Is the Theme the Thing? rss

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Jon Gautier

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I played Leaping Lemmings at the 2007 Monstercon and liked it very much. But when I had originally seen the announcement for Leaping Lemmings some months before Monstercon, I was not interested in the game and didn’t prepub it. The theme just didn’t do it for me.

As soon as I got back from Monstercon I prepubbed two copies. Why the about face? My conversion made me realize just how important the theme is to our enjoyment of and interest in a game. Look at what some of the leading (and not so leading) lights on CSW have said about Leaping Lemmings (names withheld to protect the guilty):

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>Leaping Lemmings. Uh, no.


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I am not really excited about the possibility of GMT publishing a nonsense game like Leaping Lemmings and the description offered in Rick's recent post did NOT attract me. I know that grognards need to play some lighter fare occasionally, but this one does not sound like something I would remotely wish to play.


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Yeah. And sorry, but Leaping LEMMINGs just looks dumb. (I'm sure I'm the one being a Philistine.) ...


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The subject of LL, however, could be seen as a parody of Euro gaming,


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Leaping Lemmings: New but very silly


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Leaping feckin' lemmings!


So Leaping Lemmings was dismissed out of hand by me and others because of the theme; but Leaping Lemmings is a clever, fun, light game. And I happen to like clever, fun, light games. Moreover, Leaping Lemmings is actually a hex and counter game with movement, zones of control, stacking, retreat, and even combat of sorts. It closer to a damn wargame than a Euro! So the theme was the culprit.

So what if, instead of Leaping Lemmings, we had Panzer Pushers? GMT’s web page description might look like this:

Quote:
Panzer Pushers: Flight From Falaise!

Panzer Pushers: Flight From Falaise! is a light war-themed game for 2-6 players. Each player controls elements from one of six of the most famous panzer divisions on the Western Front in World War II. Pick from your favorites: the 21st, 116th, Lehr, 12th SS, LAH and Das Reich—they are all there!

Your Panzers are desperately trying to break away from the advancing allied juggernaut and avoid being trapped in the deadly Falaise Pocket. They race for the relative safety of the Seine River where they will try to reform and defend the Fatherland. On the way back to Germany they must avoid the deadly Jabos, rocket firing British Typhoons and American Mustangs. They’ll also have a better chance of getting back if they pick up precious fuel supplies, which are scattered about the route.

Objective: To earn victory points, players drive their panzers off the map or collect fuel supplies. And the faster your panzers are going when they exit the map, the faster they can regroup to fight another day, so the more points you get.

The Board: The game board is a hex map of typical French countryside. Clear hexes leave the panzers vulnerable to enemy airpower. Wooded hexes protect your panzers from the fighter bombers but restrict stacking and cost more movement points to enter.

The pieces: beautifully rendered counters offer silhouettes of all your favorite German panzers: Mk IVs, Panthers, Tigers and assault guns to boot! German divisional badges also grace the counters for added color and realism!


So . . . exact same game, but a different theme. I wonder what the response would have been to Panzer Pushers.

My experience with Leaping Lemmings was the opposite of my experience with Atlantic Storm, a trick-taking card game with a WWII Battle for the Atlantic theme. Without all the cool ships on the cards, I wouldn’t have touched that game with a barge pole in the first place. And after I played it, I hated it even with all the cool ships and such. For me Leaping Lemmings and Atlantic Storm were opposites, one with a theme I (originally) didn’t care for but with game play I quite liked and the other with a theme I (still) like but game play I hated.

It seems that the lighter the game, the easier it is to hang any kind of theme on it, and the more important the theme is to attracting people to the game. You could probably design the same game numerous times with different themes each time and find different, but still enthusiastic, audiences for each game.
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Pete Belli
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"You could probably design the same game numerous times with different themes each time and find different, but still enthusiastic, audiences for each game."

Which is something like what Richard Borg -- one of the nicest guys you would ever want to meet -- has done with Battle Cry, Memoir '44, etc.

Good discussion topic.
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Colin Hunter
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I can't speak for other grogs, but my objection has nothing to do with the leaping lemmings. My reasons for not being keen would be

1. Weight of the Game - I'm not a big light game fan.

2. While I like europe engulfed and look forward to EE, they aren't my favourite wargames.

3. I've recently been moving away from multiplayer games.

4. While I have no problem with silly themes, they don't improve a game for me, no substance + silly theme does not equal good in my book.

5. I already have 20 preorders I don't need another for a game I am unlikely to want.

Having said all this I will definitely order it if,

1. Has tense, engaging and deep gameplay.

2. My friends, who tend to be suckers for crazy themes want.


I have been convinced before and definitely will keep my ear to the ground about it. If I see some interesting sessions and reviews, I may very well change my mind.

In general I suspect that the weight of the game would be the biggest factor for most wargamers, but I could be wrong.
 
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j b Goodwin

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Absolutely. Even though I trust GMT to make quality wargames, when I heard about this, although my curiosity was slightly piqued (mostly about what the heck was GMT doing putting out a game about LEMMINGS?), my reaction was, "Uh, no thanks, I'll just scroll back up the P500 page instead."

I was amused by your insightful transformation of this game into a Panzer game. Your description sounded 100 times better than the Lemmings game.
 
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Seth Owen
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Well, I think theme is the single most important aspect of wargames. It explains why there can be dozens of wargames on the exact same topic. It also explains why wargamers will by and play muliple games that use the same system to cover deifferent batttles (ASL, Blue & Gray quads, Great War at Sea; Great Campaigns of the ACW, base set and three expansions of C&C:Ancients, etc. etc. etc.)
Nonwargamers are often puzzled why wargamers will have so many games that are, from a euro point of view, basically the same.
Likewise, nonwargamers will often ask whether they should buy, for example, Memoir'44 when they already have C&C:Ancients which is basically the same thing, right? From a pure gamer POV they are pretty close to the same, but no wargamer would consider them the same thing.
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Allen Doum
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Real Wargames don't have Themes. They have Subjects.

While I like the way GMT does games, I too am passing on LL. Some of those who are going for it cite using it as an "introductory" wargame.

I have seen far to many "introductory" wargames through the years. Many have been too simple to provide much of an introduction. Strike force one, for example.

To my mind a simpler "real" wargame is the best introduction to wargames. (See my microbadges for a suggestion.)
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Colin Hunter
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I agree that theme is important, but for me at least it isn't the cosideration here. If the this game were marketed as an epic game of strategy, perhaps with some card driven elements I would preorder faster than you can say leaping lemming. Conversely if it was an abstract sort of game, perhaps diceless, then I would strongly consider it. Again, I'll wait and see, it may well be that LL will be the perfect game for me.
 
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Todd Pytel
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wargamer55 wrote:
Well, I think theme is the single most important aspect of wargames.

I agree. But I also think Seth's statement is entirely different than what the OP suggests. Grogs love theme - as Seth points out, most have particular areas of interest for which they own numerous games. But the reason they own multiple games on a battle is closely tied to the ruleset - they're interested in how each particular game approaches the historical situation and thus in what insights that game provides. You can take LL and retheme it into a Bulge game if you like. Perhaps that would even help it sell more copies, but they wouldn't be selling to grogs. No grognard would be interested in such a game, despite its "theme", because the rules weren't designed with the Bulge's historical situation in mind. It's the marriage between the history and the rules that's really interesting, not just whatever picture and title are slapped on the cover.
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Jon Gautier

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tppytel wrote:
wargamer55 wrote:
Well, I think theme is the single most important aspect of wargames.

I agree. But I also think Seth's statement is entirely different than what the OP suggests. Grogs love theme - as Seth points out, most have particular areas of interest for which they own numerous games. But the reason they own multiple games on a battle is closely tied to the ruleset - they're interested in how each particular game approaches the historical situation and thus in what insights that game provides. You can take LL and retheme it into a Bulge game if you like. Perhaps that would even help it sell more copies, but they wouldn't be selling to grogs. No grognard would be interested in such a game, despite its "theme", because the rules weren't designed with the Bulge's historical situation in mind. It's the marriage between the history and the rules that's really interesting, not just whatever picture and title are slapped on the cover.


Well, yes and no. I agree that there are wargamers who would never buy a light, themed game, no matter what the theme. But there are plenty of wargamers who do play light games and for many of them, theme is important. Atlantic Storm is a good example; so is Bang!.

And there are a lot of light, themed games lurking out there that are masquerading as wargames, by the way. Many of the old SPI quads, for example. Richard Borg's games and the GMT American Revolution Series are others.
 
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Chris Talbot
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Theme/subject can pique my interest or push me to immediately dismiss a game. For instance, I have a lot of interest in medieval/ancient European battles, so I'd probably at least take a look at any game with that theme, but I have zero interest in the U.S. Civil War, so I tend to ignore any game based on it or any of its battles.

Because of this, I probably miss out on some good games, though.

Chris
 
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Antigonus Monophthalmus
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Quote:
Each player controls elements from one of six of the most famous panzer divisions on the Western Front in World War II. Pick from your favorites: the 21st, 116th, Lehr, 12th SS, LAH and Das Reich—they are all there!


I think that right there is sillier than any leapin anythings laugh
 
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Confusion Under Fire
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ctalbot wrote:
Theme/subject can pique my interest or push me to immediately dismiss a game. For instance, I have a lot of interest in medieval/ancient European battles, so I'd probably at least take a look at any game with that theme, but I have zero interest in the U.S. Civil War, so I tend to ignore any game based on it or any of its battles.

Because of this, I probably miss out on some good games, though.

Chris


I agree with you Chris, my interest is WW2 tactical games, tho at our club we recently played Friedrich, a 7 years war game covering 6 or 7 countries, it lasted 4 hours, but seemed like just 1, it was brilliant but if i had seen the game on BGG i would of glanced by it as not of interest.

I wonder how many wargamers actually picture the scenes of the battles that they are playing out in front of them? Hence the theme related addiction.
 
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Chris Talbot
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whatambush wrote:
I agree with you Chris, my interest is WW2 tactical games, tho at our club we recently played Friedrich, a 7 years war game covering 6 or 7 countries, it lasted 4 hours, but seemed like just 1, it was brilliant but if i had seen the game on BGG i would of glanced by it as not of interest.

I had a similar experience with Friedrich, but it was more the game mechanics style that put me off initially. How wrong I was to think that way. The game is brilliant and works incredibly well.

Chris
 
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